Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

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Could lack of a free press lead to totalitarianism ?

I hate saying it but I’ve come to the conclusion that newspapers themselves are partly to blame for their decline in popularity. On the other hand I believe newspapers could increase their popularity if they became less formulaic as they were when freedom of the press meant what it said.

Much of the decline is said to have been caused by Twitter, Facebook and online blogs. As to whether or not that is true seems to me to fall into the category that any excuse is better than none. Twitter and Facebook et al, allegedly are social news sites and though many people will disagree with me, I think them anti-social. In fact, I think Twitter and Facebook are sloganeering sites that are boons to the advertising industry. Any news you get on them shorthand inform.

Unfortunately, many newspapers editors also seem to be turning to these sites in search of news while more and more of their journalists seem to be writing in the required Twitter and Facebook style. While true that some remarks can be covered by 140 words – including spaces – I venture to suggest that while adequate enough for gossip I doubt 140 words adequate enough to give full depth of a story.

That apart, one would think Twitter and Facebook were new phenomena. Not so! Gossip has always been fashionable. But where once upon a time the places where gossip was retailed such as over a garden fences, cups of tea in the kitchen or, dare I say it, over a pint in the pub and thereafter repeated to the ears of whosoever was available to listen has been replaced by Twitter and Facebook. No doubt too, you’ve heard of African message drums. In a sense they were a form of internet although the stories they sent were not gossip.

And the story’s the thing although every story teller tells his/her story in a different way because they see it in a different light. What they consider the most important parts of the story will be seen by others as the least important and what some will see as the start of the story some will see as the end.

That said it is important to add that not all stories follow the mathematical principle that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Indeed for some story tellers the distance between start and finish is not a straight line but a series of diversions that add substance that add colour to the story and make it more interesting.

Once upon a time, but no longer, newspapers allowed such diversions. Today, unfortunately, stories that do not adhere to the straight line practice are unlikely to appear in newspapers. The result: newspapers seem to have lost their individuality. Having said that said, it is little wonder some blog sites are being written by journalists tired of having to toe a particular line.

Of the blogs on most of these websites the most interesting are written by people unaligned to a political party, religious organisation, union, military personnel et al, who do not write by rote but speak freely in hope of making the community more aware than at present of the limitations put on them by people in power.

The danger of journalism by rote whether online or in newspapers is that a particular online opinion site, newspaper, or group of newspapers, could wield undue influence and prevent communities from being exposed to new ideas. When communities end up as homogeneous, history shows how easy it is for them to become totalitarian. Let’s not take the chance of it happening here.

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Why waste energy on a second rate solution?

More people waste energy in rushing about trying to persuade Australians other than those who, like me, don’t think global warming and climate change is anthropogenic. Instead, they say we should stop using fossil fuels and produce energy using alternatives.

Unfortunately their proposed alternatives, solar panels, wave barrages, wind turbines et al, are incapable of producing the base load power necessary to supply electricity to meet the demands of industry and domestic markets.

This is not to say that these alternative sources of electricity should not be developed even if they cannot produce the necessary amount of base load power. They could be used to supply electricity to some places where it might be impractical to build power stations to supply the industrial and domestic market.

No doubt over time, their power output would be improved but it will never improve to the extent that it will be able to meet the base load power needs of expanding communities. That apart, the replacement cost of new equipment would be high.

All of these facts are known, yet across the world some people are constantly engaged in trying to persuade governments to legislate for the reduction in the use of fossil fuels and also offer industry incentives to manufacture this alternative energy equipment. It seems to escape their notice that manufacturers will need fossil fuels to manufacture this equipment.

In Australia, a country that prides itself on looking over the horizon at the future, this seems strange thinking. It is the kind of thinking indulged in by people with a preference for the past; people who think we should be satisfied with what we’ve got; and people who use their children and grandchildren as excuses to keep the future at bay.

Not for them the use of nuclear energy. They become carbon copies of Canute stemming the ocean’s tide; they become modern Canutes stemming the tide of progress. They are people who do not seem to understand the past they long for can never return; that the world will keep changing; and that soon they will be part of the past.

With regard to global warming and climate change, these same people say the science is settled yet at the same time refuse to accept that science says nuclear energy, in the shape of nuclear fusion, is the energy of the future. Their attitude would be understandable if it was likely they were going to be part of that future.

Sadly, most of them won’t. Indeed most of them are still locked into the scenes of death and destruction caused by caused accidents to nuclear fission plants at Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima and Windscale. They use these scenes as a shield in the same way as scoundrels use patriotism.

At the same time, in their efforts to keep the aura of fear with which they have surrounded nuclear energy, they have focussed on nuclear fission: they rarely if ever mention fusion. And yet fusion, once developed will provide them with what they value most: cheap, waste free, clean and limitless safe energy.

Many scientists working in the field of global warming and climate change, plus people in the Green movement are sceptical about fusion. The former should know better because science, a sceptical discipline, has produced some of the world’s greatest benefits.

That said, it is pleasing to know that in the Cadarache forest in Provence, France, a group comprising some of the world’s greatest science sceptics are gathered together to prove through Iter (the way in Latin) a $13 billion reactor, that fusion is both feasible and practical. Contrary to the predictions of the doomsayers, they are confident of proving their point.

Building the reactor is already under way but after completion it will take at least a further five years of testing before the reactor will be seeded with plasma, a mix of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium that will drive the nuclear fusion reaction.

They say that once proved, a realistic time span to develop commercial reactors would be post 2050. Perhaps if the people determined to foist second rate alternative energy on the world started lobbying government to push for speedier development of fusion, that time could be reduced.

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Changing one’s mind

 Do you change your mind very often? While I change my mind often about things of little consequence I hastily agreed to, I rarely change my mind on serious matters that I have given a great deal of thought. Even though I do change my mind on some of these issues some churls go as far as to say I don’t change it often enough to suit them. What they really mean is: how can I ever disagree with them?

In today’s society, some serious matters, about which I cannot imagine ever changing my mind, become subject to public relations campaigns that make issues so popular that people accept it without actually devoting any time to thinking about the issue. Creating popularity about issues can be a lot easier than people think particularly if some of the people involved are leaders in Politics, Business, The Arts, Science or one of the myriad other sections of society in which people are often thought to be greater thinkers and/or more knowledgeable about them than the common herd.

I defer to no one in my thinking but will change my mind when persuaded by logical not emotional argument that I should. Deferring to no one has often caused me problems but, accepting arguments merely because it will make life easier, is not for me.

While it is not my intention to opinion extensively on these issues in this blog, I will give a few examples. I am still a sceptic about the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global warming and climate change warnings. Instead of sparking rational debate between its scientists who predict that if nations continue to use fossil fuels, planet earth will warm to such a level as to become unliveable, and respected scientists who disagree with them, both groups of scientists now stand facing each other from either side of the climate chasm.

Naturally the IPCC public relations team have co-opted politicians, bureaucrats and people in media to support the IPCC position. This disturbs me because the development of fusion as the clean energy source that will replace fossil fuels and halt whatever global warning there is in its tracks, is already under way. This raises the question in my mind that the IPCC scientists in particular are more interested in the continuance of their funding than in solving the global warming problem.

I am also in favour of the Universities of the Third Age creating diplomas for graduates who have successfully completed training studies in Aged Care, Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Wellness. Who better than third age people to train for this discipline? I say that because science is in the process of creating the Fourth Age. Indeed some people have already entered that age.

The following may be a foolish idea but I would rather be accused of promoting a foolish idea than having a mind devoid of ideas.

Education is what drives society and I think the time has come to establish Second Tier Universities (STUs) with a limited curriculum that will allow access to a higher level of education for many, including those who failed to gain entry to University in the first place.

I say that because it seems ridiculous that a substantial number of young people who value higher education are being consigned to the education dustbin. I firmly believe that graduates of STU’s will be in demand as the world becomes even more technologically sophisticated and requires more and more people to service society’s needs.

People of course are of different mind about what are serious issues. Generally speaking however, I find most issues that attract popularity are fleeting and of little substance.

My final issue and an issue I think minority driven, is legalisation of same sex marriage. The fact that 13 countries (7.29% of the 192 countries listed by the UN) support same sex marriage is not a statistic that one hears from this minority’s PR team.  Because US President Obama supports the idea as does David Cameron and John Key, respectively the Prime Ministers of Britain and New Zealand, plus parliaments of assorted other countries, is not a persuasive argument. As for me, I will start to give the matter consideration when at least 50% of countries say they support it.

Comments welcome. 

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Facebook and Twitter: the twin towers of internet babel

Facebook and Twitter should set up sites on which the only posts can be made by politicians, wannabes politicians, political letter writers and bloggers who only comment on politics and social issues. This would prevent both sites being cluttered by the untrammelled stream of inane gossip from contributors who seem to have nothing else to occupy their mind.

Let me suggest the websites would be welcome additions to the internet. This is not to suggest these websites would be free of inanity. Indeed not; politicians often utter the most striking inanities as do political commentators, letter writers and bloggers. At the same time their comment can be just as biased.

Indeed political and social issues sites without inanities would be too much to hope for but nevertheless they would serve a useful purpose in that they would allow people to make assessments about issues without being overwhelmed by what is often social drivel.

Facebook and Twitter Political websites could be seen as contributing to the cause of freedom of speech, unfortunately not a freedom that has wide acceptance in the media. I find it appalling that as civilisation has advanced freedom of speech in the media seems to have declined with editor after editor seemingly loath to allow it.

A brief digression: many editors also seem reluctant to subscribe to the phrase usually attributed to Voltaire: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ which in fact was coined by English writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall (pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre) in ‘Friends of Voltaire (1906). However it should be noted that Hall said later that she had been paraphrasing Voltaire’s words in his “Essay on Tolerance.”

Digression over let me return to Facebook and Twitter. I have heard both of these functions being lauded by some users as “cool.” Well for me they are cool and to such an extent that, when unwittingly drawn into one or the other by people who think they are doing me favour, I feel a chill of horror running up and down my spine.

There is one other thing I’m sure of. Following today’s Labor Party farce held at the Theatre of the Absurd, known an as Parliament House, Canberra, Facebookers and Twitterers will be working hard tonight. No doubt they will have much to say about what happened.

I have something to say myself. Political ‘experts’ say that following the spill brought on by Labor Minister Simon Crean, Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and  her deputy Wayne Swan were re-elected unopposed by the Labor Caucus. True but not true. The fact is, because Gillard and Swan were the only people to nominate for the positions the positions were not put to a vote. This is not the same as saying that following a formal voting process and a check of voting slips, no votes against them had been recorded.

And so l end with a question. Do voters think Labor’s leadership brou – ha- ha has ended?

Comments welcome.

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Read On

Failed promises and heavy taxation causing death of Labor

You can bet your last dollar on it that as the elections draw near many politicians seeking re-election wish at times that in the past they had kept their mouth shut. Unfortunately, and to their dismay, technology can now permanently inscribe rash promises made in the heat of an election campaign.

Worse, anxious for voters to hear their promises the electronic media helped broadcast them far and wide before the politicians realised they had made promises they couldn’t keep. Only after the votes had been counted at the next election did they find out how true was the saying: you can fool people some of the time and some of them all of the time but you can’t fool all of them all of the time.

Take West Australia as an example. From the result of the State election in which Labor sustained what could only be called a rout, it is quite clear that voters felt Labor had been trying to fool them. And based on voters’ answers elicited by journalists, Labor faces another rout at the Federal election in September.

Will this happen? I don’t know, but well – known political Oracles predict that even though the Liberals are undergoing traumas in some parts of the country, voters generally are of the view that, based on the NSW Labor scandals and the performance of the Prime Minister and some of her Ministers, Labor is not to be trusted.

It is not to be denied that the Liberals have some problems of their own even if not on the scale of Labor. For example, In the Northern Territory, the Government’s deputy leader has just lost his position and voters are becoming restive over what seems to be a lack of progress on the promises made by Government at the last election.

Unfortunately Labor, it is not being seen in any better light due to the Prime Minister personally endorsing a novice for the Senate in place of its current tried, trusted and well liked sitting Senator. This is in direct contrast to voters views of the PM and some of her Ministers particularly regarding the keeping of promises and heavy doses of taxation

And Victoria also has a problem. Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu, by all accounts a good man, respected even by his Labor opponents as a man of honesty, intelligence and integrity, has resigned as Premier in the interests of the party. I find it sad that no longer do politicians need these qualities necessary to be successful. A capacity to lie like a con man (non -gender specific) or an assassin now seem to be the necessary qualities.

Of course living in Canberra, the nation’s capital, which is about to celebrate its centenary is not only of great importance to me it is also important to the rest of Australia. That said, if the Liberal Party in Canberra, the city touted as Australia’s best educated, cleverest and most cultural, can’t elect a Liberal Senate candidate without behaving like spoilt children, perhaps it should copy NT Labor and parachute in a candidate. It should also heed the fact that the ACT Greens senate candidate will not be slow to capitalize on its current disarray.

Not to put too fine a point on it, unless the Liberals acquire some common sense, this disgraceful episode might have serious repercussions at the next ACT Assembly election so that, Instead of Labor minority Government being elected, Labor will be elected with a majority.

Now you might ask: what will happen to the Greens? It seems to me that unless the Liberals quickly put their house in order, it is possible that it could lose its long established position of having a Liberal Senator in the ACT. But perhaps the thought of that danger is what the Liberal Party needs to jolt it out of its complacency.

It should remember that having a Liberal Senator in the ACT is not a tradition by right but a position that has to be earned.

All comments welcomed

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Read on.

Have you tried the duck test?

The duck test is a humorous term for a form of inductive reasoning usually expressed as:

‘If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then probably it is a duck.’ The assumption in this saying is that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing its habitual characteristics. It is an assumption sometimes used to counter abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be. Being named Donald, this is a subject of interest to me as I would not take kindly to someone claiming to be a duck without having legitimate right.

I mention this because today two venerable Australian newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have set out to reinvent themselves in the digital age by changing their size. For more than a hundred years each has been a broadsheet but from today, their owner, Australia’s Fairfax Press, has decided the only way for them to survive in the digital age was for them to become to become ‘compacts,’ a snobbish description of tabloids.

The description is snobbish and the hangover of bygone days in newspaper publishing. In fact the great newspapers of the world today, with but few exceptions, are tabloids. There has been much prating about broadsheets being the home of quality journalism something that makes me think of the old TV comedy, ‘never mind the quality feel the width’ which leads me to ask: do their other tabloid/ compacts lack quality journalism?

That apart what makes a quality journalist? There seems to be a view among many in Canberra that the only journalists of quality are those who write or comment about politics, industrial matters, science, education and a few other disciplines. At the same other journalists are frequent seen on TV or heard on radio talking to each other and offering opinions about issues they write about that usually are the same. The problem is the public really only get the journalist’s view not the wider view of the public. But that’s a subject for another day.

The fact is that I’m of the opinion that the decision makers at Fairfax couldn’t see the wood for the trees. For example: before they made the ‘compact’ decision did they take a look at the shelves in a newsagent’s? If they did how many broadsheet magazines, trade publications not to mention sporting publications and community newspapers did they see?

What has happened in newspapers is the same as has happened in the world of computers. Like the pamphlets that gave birth to newspapers the first computer screens were small. Then gradually they grew so much so that they have started to overwhelm the home scene as people try to keep up with the Jones’s and outdo each other.

But big as TVs are the smaller tablets and Iphones are rapidly replacing them as peoples’ preferred means of reading and viewing.  And much as they might not like it, older people long used to a menu of broadsheet newspapers will have to get used to the new menu of tabloid/compacts. Of course, in time these too, will disappear.

That said, I am consoled by the fact that Fairfax is keeping the Canberra Times as a broadsheet. But broadsheet or I can but say that the promises made by politicians aren’t any truer or any better when published in the Canberra Times or a compact Sydney Morning Herald or Age, Melbourne or even in a News Ltd tabloid.

Don Allan’s week in review

Unlikely as it is, I hope writing a weekly review is one of those spur of the moment decisions that will end up being a flash of genius.

The idea of the weekly review is to write about items I should have written about during that last week but didn’t. It’s a review about missed issues that might eventually affect Canberra and Australia. An example:  I might have said to myself that because the gun control issue has gone off the boil in Australia a blog about it in the US will be of little interest to readers.

How wrong can you be? If anything, the gun issue seems to be gaining traction. That said if the voice of protest in the US is heeded and President Obama actually creates laws that contribute to a decline in gun violence, such laws will be copied sooner or later by other countries also concerned with gun violence.

In any case it seems odd to me that in the world’s leading republic the second amendment of its Constitution is based on the English (not British) Bill of Rights created in 1689 by the English monarchy. As a former soldier I am not anti-gun but nor am I like those people who, as one listens to them, seem to think every person in the community is a likely gun killer thus making it necessary for them to carry a gun for protection.

I have heard officers of America’s National Rifle Association say it is violent video games and TV programmes that encourage gun use. This is a spurious argument: the fact is, the US law that gives people a licence to carry a gun made the habit of carrying a gun a bad habit long before film, TV and Video Games became part of society’s norm. The scary part is that using guns to settle real and often imagined problems is becoming the norm in other countries also. Unsurprisingly, however, countries with laws that make gun ownership difficult have the lowest rates of gun violence. Sadly, if the former have high rates of immigration, even new arrivals from the latter quickly become acculturated to guns.

The only way to stop gun violence is to stop making guns which would be described as a step too far not only by arms makers but even by non -gun minded citizens at the loss of jobs in particular communities and the consequent decline in various economies. Much as this action would be desirable it is unlikely to happen in the short term. I have no doubt that it will happen eventually but it will happen only when man with his creative capacity invents a piece of technology that will provide jobs but also can kill and be carried easily.

A subject that has attracted my attention for many years is the issue of equality. What does equality mean?  How can it be achieved? Is it a natural quality or confected? Is it, or is it not a human right? And that’s only a few of the questions that can be asked.

But perhaps the most important question of all is: who can decide what equality means? What I think might be equality be seen by others as inequality. It is only too easy to say that a court can decide on what is equality. While that might be true when comparing one product with another but how can one human or even a collective of humans decide on equality?

Can emotions such as love be measured in terms of equality? Can hate be measured? Can anger be measured? Can pain be measured? Can joy be measured? If so what criteria are used to measure these emotions? For example, who can measure my pleasure in writing if indeed such pleasure can be measured?

The fact is, that because equality means different things to different people it also means that equality cannot be measured, as everyone’s measurement criteria is different.

Blog: Allan Takes Aim;; 


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